MZ 1000S: Exclusive first test
2004 MZ 1000S
It wasn't the perfect first date. I certainly wasn't blinded by her looks and quite frankly had some issues when it came to certain manners. Consulting with my well-worn copy of "Men are from mars, women are from America," I was submissive and forgiving for our next rendezvous. We met at a wonderful little place near my house, where a knowledgeable friend administered some therapy, and from there our relationship blossomed. A weekend away in Virginia, some late-afternoon trips along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the shaky start to our relationship soon faded into the hazy blue smoky mountains of my North Carolina home. Even the wife was positive.
Of course all good things have to come to an end, and a phone call from John Stoddard at MZ saying, "are you finished with my bloody bike yet" brought a crashing end to the fun. A few weeks earlier John had dropped off a shiny new MZ1000S at my house before I was awake, with a message attached to say he would be back to get it in a few weeks. This gave me the chance to take the bike to the track and get some road miles in before I hit the keyboard.
As I admitted earlier, it wasn't love at first sight. I initially thought the bike was going to be physically smaller and to be honest felt it looked a little dated. With the bike's release being delayed some three years since its first unveiling, I guess it would be hard not to, as fast as motorcycles change these days. Then when I rode the bike, it seemed to vibrate excessively at highway speeds and felt hinged in the middle. A quick call to Monsieur Stoddard for parts and a trip to my buddy Jeff Sutton at Precision Cycle of Sylva had everything fixed. Actually, I should say transformed.
The rear suspension had been wound all the way up to the point of having no travel and the front was way too soft. The drive sprocket was one tooth too high, no doubt for emissions, and the tire pressures were like something the wife would do to the car. Jeff kindly installed a new, smaller sprocket, sat me on the bike and made some changes to the multi adjustable suspension. Then he set the tire pressures, wheel alignment and a few other minor things before sending me off to test it out. (It's like being a factory rider testing for MCUSA, you know.)
Dispatching my umbrella girl, I hit the street, and within three gear changes had a shit-eating grin beaming out of my helmet.
The MZ was styled by designer Peter Kaufmann, who you might remember as the man behind the carlike BMW C1 scooter-with-a-roof. It's distinctive if a bit bulky.
Winding on through to sixth gear, I took a couple of my favorite turns at triple-digit speeds. The MZ stuck solidly to my chosen line with only the slightest hint of steering input to initiate the turn. Backing off and rolling back on, it pulled much cleaner from low rpm, and even the shifting felt smoother. Now when I opened the throttle the bike surged forward with a potent urgency, unlike with the taller gearing, where I constantly needed to be in a lower gear than felt natural. Back at Precision Cycle, I relayed my findings to Jeff, we firmed the suspension some for an upcoming track weekend at Virginia International Raceway, and I headed home to pack.
On arrival at VIR for a Sportbike Tracktime weekend I unloaded the MZ, and before long was answering a bunch of questions. Being around racers and track addicts, it was no surprise that a lot of people were familiar with the name, as the MZ Scorpion has been doing battle on the racetracks of America for a few years now. Using a reliable Yamaha 660cc single cylinder engine, it makes a great club-level racer.
The MZ1000S, with its liquid-cooled, 998cc parallel-Twin engine, is a completely new bike, as well as being MZ's first large-capacity machine. Peering in behind the fairing at the 40-degree inclined Twin, I can't help thinking it looks like an over-bored Yamaha TDM 850 engine, a bike that's been around in Europe for a good number of years now. It is said to produce 118 horsepower at 9000 rpm, with maximum torque occurring two thousand rpm earlier. And, while I don't have a direct translation from the German literature, it sure feels like it is going to be a pretty healthy number.
Gas and air make their way into the big, four-valve cylinders via a Sagem fuel injection system, which works extremely well. I didn't find any glitches, and it wasn't for the lack of trying. The power delivery from the 180-degree firing order is silky smooth, and there is lots of it; just don't try rolling on hard at low rpm in high gear. Even with the shorter gearing, the big Twin doesn't like to lug too low. It will pull; it just protests your actions with some uncomfortable vibration that is felt through the footpegs and bars.
Keep it spinning up a little higher and the amount of drive is totally addictive. Making progressive, abundant power all the way to its 9500 rpm redline, there are no pronounced steps in the powerband and it feels a lot stronger than the current crop of V-Twins until it approaches redline. Here an Aprilia Mille or Ducati 999 will take the upper hand, making more power and revving higher. The MZ1000S is aimed to fit somewhere in between these and Triumph's 955i however, so is not all about peak horsepower.
The MZ has its wheels spaced 56.3 inches apart, a relatively long wheelbase for a sportbike. Combined with a fairly typical 24.5-degree rake and 98mm of trail, the MZ isn't super quick to turn but provides a stable platform at speed.
Out on the track, I liked the roomy riding position and the bike is actually pretty comfortable. It is going to make the perfect occasional track day bike for the person who is not going out to win races. Quick enough to thrill, it is blessed with awesome brakes, solid handling and sensible ergonomics. Sure it gets its doors blown off down the straights by a lot of big bikes, but it was amazing how many of them I re-passed thanks to the great brakes.
Nothing earth-shattering here, just a solid Nissin dual four-piston caliper set up, with par-for-the-course 320mm rotors. When I first got on the bike, I didn't think they would work too well on the track, as there is lot of movement at the beginning of the lever. This makes for a fantastic street set up, as there is so much feel at the lever before they start biting hard. Once on the track, this initial movement was quickly forgotten, as the brake lever was forced back toward the bar and the eight pistons did what they were intended to do. With the bike hitting speeds up around 145 mph down the long front straight before slowing for the 45-mph, second-gear Turn 1, I was glad for their power and fade-free operation.
Having some fun with my wife Kristen (minds out the gutter everyone) during the two-up session at lunchtime, we got passed down the back straight by our track-day host Nancy Johnson on a Tuono. Just to be a pain in the arse, I did some late braking to catch her back, and then rode into Turn 1 right beside her with a big cheesy grin on my face: The MZ having more than enough stopping power for the extra weight on board.
For my test, John Stoddard had installed a set of Metzeler Sportec M1s that performed admirably. Between my slightly soft suspension set-up and heavy throttle hand, I had some fun sliding and squirming coming out of the sharp carousel turn up the hill, but nothing unsettling. Wrapped around MZ's very attractive, patented Twin System Wheels (TSW), they showed surprisingly little wear at the end of a long day of hard riding.
Back in the pits, taking a break and talking about the bike some more, a common theme was developing: People were extremely positive and nearly all commented on the frame. It certainly is going to make the MZ stand out in a world of alloy box-section-framed sportbikes, and maybe MZ took some clues from Ducati and Triumph here. I was really warming to the bike by now, and finding it so easy and pleasurable to ride was helping sway my judgment. The six-speed cassette-style gearbox shifts smooth. I could have made it even sweeter by moving it down a notch as I botched a few upshifts, but unfortunately didn't seem to find time. The MZ wasn't really quick enough to run with the fast guys out in the advanced class, but doing double duties for photos it was right at home with the intermediate riders.
The MZ 1000S uses a fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork for front-end control. The nose of this bike won't be mistaken in someone's mirrors for anything else on the road.
Riding at a slightly more relaxed pace at the end of day, I was having fun with a blind-apex left-hander on the backside of the VIR short course. Swooping up the hill while getting up into fourth gear, I would back off a tad, pick my line and roll through with the bike approaching the meat of the powerband. It was as close to perfection as it could be, twisting the throttle and plunging down the hill before getting hard on the brakes for the last two turns. A quick downshift, lean into the right-hander, aim wide, drop another gear and dive around the big tree turn in second. Picking my knee off the floor, it was then time to tuck in and rip the bike back down the front straight for another lap of motorcycling bliss.
With solid German engineering, distinctive Euro styling, and a willing, enthusiastic engine for fast road work, the MZ1000S is a delight for those times you want to take it to the track. Comfortable, quiet and coming to America in limited numbers at $11,999, it is definitely going to attract a small cult following of riders: Riders who want to celebrate its differences, without having to sacrifice quality, reliability or practicality. Full marks from the Big Nose one!
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